Monday, 17 February 2014

2014 Winter Olympics

Image credit: Joy Siggers, Wikimedia Commons

The 2014 Winter Olympics kicked off to a grand opening ceremony at Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia on 7 February.  Sochi is a city in Krasnodar Krai, Russia that is located on the Black Sea coast near the border between Georgia/Abkhazia and Russia.   This Games is officially known as the XXII Olympic Winter Games.

How it began
Efforts to have a winter version of the Olympics started in 1908 when figure skating made an appearance at the Summer Games in London.  Organisers of the 1916 Berlin Games planned to introduce a ”Skiing Olympia” but their hopes were dashed due to the breakout of World War I.  After the War, the Games resumed in 1920 at Antwerp, Belgium with the return of figure skating and the addition of ice hockey.

The first Winter Olympics was inaugurated in 1924 at Chamonix, France but not before encountering objections from Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the Modern Olympics, and Scandinavian countries. Eventually a compromise was reached and the International Olympic Committee sanctioned an “International Winter Sports Week”.  The event included Nordic skiing, speed skating, figure skating, ice hockey and bobsledding.  It was a huge success.

The 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway ended the four-year Olympic cycle of staging both Winter and Summer Games in the same year and began a new schedule for the two Games to alternate every two years.

2014 Winter Olympics

A total of 98 events in 15 winter sport disciplines are being held.  The disciplines are:
1) Alpine Skiing
2) Biathlon
3) Bobsleigh
4) Cross-Country
5) Curling
6) Figure Skating
7) Freestyle Skiing
8) Ice Hockey
9) Luge
10) Nordic Combined
11) Short Track
12) Skeleton
13) Ski Jumping
14) Snowboarding
15) Speed Skating

Eighty-eight nations qualified to compete. Seven nations - Dominica, Malta, Paraguay, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, and Zimbabwe made their debut.  Besides Timor-Leste, two other South-east Asian countries are also participating – Philippines and Thailand.  There is no ice or snow in these countries but yet they are competing!

Fast facts:
1. Michael Christian Martinez of the Philippines is a man of firsts - the first Southeast Asian to advance to the finals in a Winter Olympic game and also the first figure skater from Southeast Asia to compete in the Winter Olympic Games. 

2. Thailand's Vanessa Vanakorn or popularly known as Vanessa-Mae is the first woman athlete from Southeast Asia to compete in the Winter Games.  She is also a violinist. She is scheduled to compete in the women's giant slalom event of alpine skiing on Tuesday, February 18.

3. Wednesday, February 19 - another Thai athlete, Kanes Sucharitakul, will compete in the men's giant slalom event.

4. Debutant Timor-Leste is represented by Goutt Goncalves who will compete in Alpine skiing.

Do you envision Malaysia making its debut in any Winter Olympics?  The 2018 Winter Olympics will be at Pyeongchang, South Korea. We hope it’s sooner than later, considering climatic changes taking place globally!

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